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The impact of brand logos.

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By  Lora Starling, Independent designer, Lora Starling www.lorastarling,com.

Researchers can tell, by the pattern of our firing brain neurons, whether we are looking at Coca Cola or Pepsi.

This implies/shows how logos fire our neurons in a way that has been specifically designed by those in control of the brand they identify. That would be the designers, as well as PR and marketing professionals and they do this according to values that are invented specifically for success and maintained according to the guidelines carefully specified by the brand creator/owner. And this process happens at different levels

On the surface we have quite complex methods of selecting, measuring, designing, detailing and researching/testing to ensure that our logo will meet its requirements to attract the ideal customer that will ensure success. 

At the relatively basic level each element will be selected for the effect desired, to attract a specific group of people that will support the success of the brand by allying themselves with it. Every logo comprises at least two elements in its design. The name, written in a unique way, a colour and often a symbol. Even if there is not a symbol, such as the shell in Shell petrol, the Nike swoosh or the Puma on sportswear, the shape and feel of a name and colour will become symbolically recognisable. We recognise Coca-Cola in any language because of its familiar script and red.

Why do we buy? 

When we get it right, brands with those logos will be bought at a premium and proudly displayed to show our allegiance. What better way than wearing the design? Nike’s logo is often the main design feature of a t-shirt and the distinctive Gucci buckle advertises belts and bags as more that a bit of leather to keep trousers up or carry convenient items.

Apart from the actual design of a logo, it is further invested with special values that tempt us to buy, the promise of a better life, happiness, romance…

The desirable perfumes, in truth a collection of carefully crafted chemicals, are endorsed by beautiful celebrities, aloof but perhaps just a smidgeon attainable if we buy. It is powerful , this embedding a brand with values. I have a friend who gets excited when the Coca-Cola Father Christmas lorry, lit with decoration, comes onto our screens to announce that the holiday season is nearing.

By promising us more, above the mundane and competitors, we select our brands depending on who we want to be or be like. And often the main differentiation in a world of overflowing competition is the logo. 

So what tempts us? That’s the easy answer. It is the branding, the added value, the promise. Brands tug at our emotions and create our dreams, and then fulfil them to their advantage and profit. And at their heart is the logo which prompts us to buy; it appears to transcend our consciousness and our logic.

A logo design is much more than a name and selection of elements to describe a product, service or activity. It is worth getting it right. Before any design begins the values and objectives will be agreed, the past history, and future vision explored and helpful research of marketplace, product and potential will be established. These tempting values are invested in every detail in the logo design.

Creating the design

Armed with this information a designer will begin to consider every curve of each letter, the space between each, the typeface which can be heavy, light, with or without serifs, condensed, extended, capital letters or lower case. Everything. And that is only the name. 

Colour will be considered, not just whether it is red, blue, green, black grey and so on but what actual ‘recipe’ makes up that colour. For example a red can have a bit of blue, making it colder, more sophisticated, tending towards violet even, a smidgeon of yellow will warm it, can make it more friendly and approachable but white, just a touch, will take it towards pink, with a totally different feel. Where will that colour, or colours be seen? In the symbol, the name or both?

And will there be a symbol? We fall in love with our symbols, from the Pillsbury Doughboy to Jaguar cars, both realistic symbols, both embodied with a ready made set of emotions. We also respond to abstract symbols; circles and squares alone prompt us in completely different ways depending on culture and context. And of course, the letters that make the name, can be triangular, circular or square. 

Every decision, each design nuance, will be measured against the brand’s objectives so that the logo is embedded with myriad intentions, accurately selected for success as it displays and shares the unique qualities of the brand it represents. And whether we are an experienced designer or not we respond unconsciously to good, well letterspaced typography and high design standards.

Keeping the design effecting/ intact

Modern research has analysed and revealed how words and pictures, shapes and sounds, can affect different responses in us. This is a skill held by good designers, to be able to tune into the underlying emotions, the rocket fuel of successful brands, and reflect that in every detail of the design. Brands can be accredited with a soul or spirit, once we start creating it, designers can feel like it is taking on a life of its own. When we get it right it is worth continuing to embed it with the chosen values through advertising and display. A good logo adds immense value to the balance sheet. Most brands do not change their logos and will go to great lengths to protect them ensuring they are reproduced accurately and according to stringent design guidelines, on everything, and making sure no other brand copies it in hope of benefitting from some of the glow of established success.

Usually a far cry from informing us about the actual product, the logo with its subtle design considerations and embedded values attracts us to buy. The promise, familiar or new, invites us to a reassuring or different way of being and sometimes we really don’t know why.

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